That diffusion is important for the proper functioning of cells is without question. The extent to which the diffusion coefficient is important is explored here for prokaryotic cells. We discuss the principles of diffusion focusing on diffusion-limited reactions, summarize the known values for diffusion coefficients in prokaryotes and in in vitro model systems, and explain a number of cases where diffusion coefficients are either limiting for reaction rates or necessary for the existence of phenomena. We suggest a number of areas that need further study including expanding the range of organism growth temperatures, direct measurements of diffusion limitation, expanding the range of cell sizes, diffusion limitation for membrane proteins, and taking into account cellular context when assessing the possibility of diffusion limitation.
Keywords: crowding; diffusion limitation; prokaryote; protein diffusion; reaction rate.